Many types of accidents can result in serious injuries and other damages, but head-on collisions are often the most dangerous, particularly when involving trucks. Semi-trucks and other kinds of trucks present numerous risks to other motorists and pedestrians due to their size, mass, and the momentum they gain on the road. Because of this, head-on truck collisions are among the deadliest.
You need to know the risks involved with these accidents and what to do after a head-on collision involving a truck.
According to crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 450,000 accidents involve commercial trucks every year. These accidents result in an average of 5,000 fatalities. Many of these accidents involve trucks that collide with cars or other vehicles.
Some of the potential dangers that trucks pose on the road can make head-on collisions and other accidents involving them particularly risky.
These dangers may include:
- The increased weight of trucks, which can weigh as much as tens of thousands of pounds when carrying full loads. This increased weight can cause significantly more damage than other lighter vehicles.
- Trucks require more time to come to a complete stop when applying the brakes in normal conditions. They will require even more time when encountering snow, ice, rain, and other adverse weather conditions.
- Semi-trucks connected to trailers often need to make wide turns that can cause them to lose their balance if the driver loses control. The wide turn radius can also put other surrounding vehicles at risk of an accident by narrowing or cutting off other lanes in the process.
Each of these potential risks makes it important for both truck drivers and other motorists to practice caution when operating or in the presence of these vehicles.
What Causes Head-On Collisions with Trucks?
There are several potential causes of head-on truck collisions and other types of accidents involving trucks. The following are some of the leading causes of head-on accidents in particular:
#1 Driver Fatigue
Truck driving is frequently stressful for truck drivers, as they must reach their destination within a specific time to make deliveries or pickups. As a result, many drivers wind up driving long distances without taking enough breaks and getting sufficient rest.
In many cases, drivers wind up spending multiple consecutive days on the road, which could leave little time for sleep. Subsequently, truck drivers often experience driver fatigue, impairing their driving and increasing the risk of getting involved in accidents.
While there are certain regulations governing the hours of service a truck driver can perform, drivers and companies may neglect to follow them.
#2 Distracted Driving
Truck drivers often spend many hours alone on the road, which can lead them to seek certain forms of entertainment while driving. In the process, drivers may engage with numerous distractions, including cell phone use, internet browsing, looking at the GPS, eating and drinking, or looking elsewhere outside of the vehicle and away from the road.
When drivers are distracted, they may fail to pay attention to the task of driving and may miss wrong-way drivers or other potential hazards. This could lead to head-on and other types of collisions.
#3 Inclement Weather
Certain weather conditions may also cause head-on accidents, depending on how they affect drivers’ ability to control their vehicles. Icy or otherwise slick roads could cause truck drivers to lose control. Meanwhile, fog, snow, or heavy rainfall can result in low visibility, which makes it harder for drivers to spot hazards until it is too late and they do not have time to come to a safe stop.
#4 Unfamiliarity with the Area’s Roads
Truck drivers frequently travel to and transport goods through areas that they do not know well. They may not know how the local roadways work, which could present drivers with unexpected turns or other configurations. Truck drivers in unfamiliar areas may also drive down roadways in the wrong direction, causing head-on accidents.
#5 Medical Issues
Although commercial truck drivers must pass medical examinations before qualifying for their jobs, there is no guarantee that these examinations will catch every underlying health issue. Truck drivers may get into accidents due to unexpected health conditions, including strokes, heart attacks, and other issues that cause them to lose control.
Some drivers may operate trucks or other vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Impaired driving significantly hinders drivers’ judgment, focus, and ability to drive. With the increased weight and other factors involved in truck driving, impaired truck drivers are particularly dangerous behind the wheel.
Another potential cause of head-on collisions is swerving, as trucks attempt to make a turn or get around other traffic. Truck drivers may also speed and swerve while switching lanes, often when they are in a rush to reach their destination.
The Potential Injuries Resulting from Head-On Truck Collisions
Head-on truck collisions involve two vehicles colliding with each other when traveling in opposite directions, impacting the front ends of both vehicles. The fact that both vehicles are moving forward at the time of the accident and the mass of the truck make these accidents potentially more dangerous and fatal than other types of accidents, although they are not as common as other accidents.
Following head-on truck collisions, victims may sustain:
- Spinal cord injuries - These injuries affect different sections of the spine, which can result in paralysis of the pelvis and legs called paraplegia, or paralysis of other parts of the body, including the arms, shoulders, hands, and torso.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) - Different degrees of trauma may result in mild to severe TBIs that affect a person’s cognitive function, behavior, and personality.
- Broken bones - Accidents may result in broken bones in affected limbs, which may require surgery to heal.
- Amputations - A collision may cause individuals to lose limbs due to impact, or medical professionals may need to remove limbs in the process of treating injury victims.
- Internal injuries - In many cases, victims may sustain injuries to internal organs, punctured lungs, or other internal injuries such as crush trauma, blunt force trauma, or penetration.
- Lacerations - These are deep cuts that may result in disfiguring levels of scarring and, in extreme cases, may require skin grafts to heal.
- Burn injuries - Fires and exposure to certain chemicals resulting from an accident could cause minor to severe burn injuries.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - In addition to physical injuries, some victims may experience psychological distress in the form of PTSD, which may result from particularly traumatic accidents.
- Wrongful death - Car accidents are often fatal for people involved, resulting in wrongful death if an individual dies due to another’s negligence.
What to Do After a Head-On Truck Collision
Following a head-on truck collision, it is important for the people involved to take the appropriate steps. By taking the right course of action after an accident takes place, individuals can make sure that victims receive the treatment they need and that their finances remain protected. The right steps can also help support an accident claim that victims may file.
The following are the specific steps to follow after an accident of any kind, including head-on truck collisions:
#1 Contact the Authorities
Head-on collisions often result in serious injuries, which is why people involved should first dial 911. Doing so will lead the police and an ambulance to arrive at the scene. In addition, 911 dispatchers may be able to provide advice around what to do next.
#2 Stay in Place if Injured
Individuals should stay in place if they are injured in an accident. Moving around after an accident could aggravate existing injuries and require additional treatment.
#3 Collect Evidence if Possible
People involved in an accident should also do what they can to gather as much physical evidence as possible, provided they are not seriously injured. Take photos or record video footage of any injuries, vehicle damage, and the scene of the accident. Additionally, it is important to record information such as the truck driver’s license and registration, license plates, and other pertinent information about the truck or driver involved.
#4 Provide Law Enforcement With an Accurate Statement
When the police arrive and begin assessing the accident scene, you should provide them with a statement that details what happened. Provide details about anything you noticed about the truck driver or vehicle, including any behavior that might have contributed to the accident. However, you should never accept responsibility for the accident. Even apologizing for the accident is interpretable as an admission of fault that can severely hurt your case, even if you are not at fault. Be as objective as possible when giving a statement, which will help officers build a report that may support your claim or lawsuit.
#5 Seek Medical Treatment as Soon as Possible
If you do not sustain obvious injuries at the accident scene that require immediate treatment, seek immediate medical attention anyway. While you may not experience injury symptoms following an accident, you may have sustained underlying injuries that develop into more serious conditions later. With a professional medical assessment, your doctor will be able to identify, diagnose, and treat any issues before they have the chance to worsen.
Seeking medical treatment can also generate medical records that may support an accident claim or a truck accident lawsuit. Conversely, failing to seek treatment for injuries could give insurance companies and negligent parties the impression that your injuries are not as serious as you may later claim. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you will be able to begin the recovery process and support your claim.
#6 Contact Insurers
The next step is to contact your insurance company. You may benefit from PIP insurance that could cover medical costs to some extent. Ask questions regarding your existing coverage and any potential deductibles, copays, or other costs that you may incur following a head-on truck collision. Before providing insurers with a statement and filing a claim, you may want to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney to discuss your case and determine how to proceed.
#7 Connect with an Accident Attorney
Accidents involving minor injuries and small claims may not require the assistance of a truck accident lawyer. However, cases involving more extensive injuries, higher dollar amounts, and other complexities may benefit from the help of an attorney.
Even if you are not sure whether you need an attorney, a free consultation with a reputable lawyer can help you figure out the options available to you. An attorney may decide to handle your case, but even if they do not, you may still be able to leave the consultation with a better understanding of your case and how to proceed.
Keep in mind that all types of accidents, including head-on truck collisions, have a specific statute of limitations in place. You can determine the statute of limitations in your state, which will indicate how much time you have to file a claim or lawsuit.
While a statute of limitations of two or more years may seem like plenty of time, act fast to build a successful claim. If you fail to file a claim or lawsuit within the allotted time, you may no longer be able to seek compensation for any injuries and other damages sustained.
Get Started With Your Truck Accident Case
If you or a loved one sustain injuries in a truck accident, including a head-on collision or another type of accident, taking the right steps can help you recover compensation if you believe a truck driver or another party’s negligence caused it.
Truck drivers must practice safe driving behaviors on the road, and trucking companies need to do what they can to facilitate safe driving practices. If these or other parties are negligent and cause an accident, they may owe you compensation for any resulting damages.
To determine if you have a viable case following a head-on truck collision, consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer today.